Scientists at the university of Auckland is proposing a new strategy for finding Earth-like planets in the Milky Way, and expects that there could be an estimated 100 billion such planets floating around.
Reseachers from the university of Auckland have devised a new method of detecting Earth-like plantes, which involves utilizing gravitational microlensing; the physical phenomena that massive objects bend space time around them, producing a visual artifact as if a curved lens had been placedin front of the object. The research team utilized a combination of data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope as well as data on microlensing to complete the study.
There could be a lot of Earths out there
Microlensing has previously been used to detect large planets the size of Neptune and up, but the research team believed that it would be possible to detect even moderately small planets, such as ours, if a worldwide network of moderate robotic telescopes could be linked up to make the observations. As happens, such a system, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, is being deployed right now with telescopes in Chile, South Africa, Australia and the United States.
"Kepler finds Earth-sized planets that are quite close to parent stars, and it estimates that there are 17 billion such planets in the Milky Way,” explains lead author on the paper, Dr. Phil Yock, “"Our proposal is to measure the number of Earth-mass planets orbiting stars at distances typically twice the Sun-Earth distance. Our planets will therefore be cooler than the Earth. By interpolating between the Kepler and MOA (Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics) results, we should get a good estimate of the number of Earth-like, habitable planets in the Galaxy.” Dr. Yock’s estimate is an astounding 100 billion planets.